Birth Story Of The Week – Lyndsay

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This is a tale of two birth stories, both very different. I’ve rewritten this numerous times. I’m not very good at showing my emotions, but believe me, this was difficult to write.

On November 17th 2012, our little boy, Dylan Alexander Hicks arrived – he was stillborn.

Our journey to hell and back started five days earlier when my boyfriend, Nick, and I went to a routine scan appointment. Instead of finding out the sex of our baby, we found out that there was something very wrong. We were told that there was no fluid around the baby, it was instantly clear from the sonographers face that this wasn’t good. It was confirmed the next day that the baby’s kidneys were either not functioning properly, or hadn’t developed at all. He had no chance of survival outside the womb. I don’t really know how to explain how it felt to be told this. Thinking back to that moment, I can see it as though I am an onlooker, I can see myself lying on the bed, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I think I kind of shut down after that.

Later that day we were taken in to a small room and joined by two women, I think one a consultant and one a midwife. They told us what was going to happen next, I didn’t hear anything they said. One of the women disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a plastic cup of water and a small paper cup with two pills. “You need to take these pills, we can wait a while if you prefer” she said, “I’ll have them now” I responded, and swallowed them in one gulp as if I were taking a couple of paracetamol. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day what the pills were for, “I feel different”, I told Nick, “I can suck my belly in”. Those pills were to end my baby’s life, how did I not realise that’s what they were for? I was angry at myself for being so stupid.

Two days later we were back in the hospital, I was going to be induced. As if I wasn’t hurting enough, I now had to give birth to my baby. It took 9 hours between the start of my induction and delivering the baby. I had a lot of blood taken for testing, this made me weak and woozy, I was given pain medication that made me violently sick, I was in a state of semi-consciousness, the only thing keeping me awake was the searing pain coming from my stomach. My head was lolling from side to side, I could see Nick and my mum looking at me worried, there was nothing they could do to help me, we just had to wait it out. Dylan was born just after 6pm, he was there, I could see him, his tiny lifeless body. “He’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!” I said to Nick, suddenly I was fully conscious. I was so happy to see him, which seems crazy, but the sadness had taken a backseat for a while. The midwife wrapped him in a blanket, put a tiny hat on his head and lay him in a basket, I only got to hold him properly once because he was so fragile. We got to see him a few more times, but because of his fragile state, he had to be taken back to, I presume, the morgue. The next morning we left the hospital with nothing but photographs and prints of his tiny hands and feet. As we walked to the car, we passed a couple leaving with their newborn baby, the first thing the new mother decided to do with her freedom was light up her cigarette, baby in the other arm. If I was a violent person I would have punched her right in the face. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

A month later, after the post-mortem was complete, we had a small funeral. It was very short, a few words were said before I carried Dylan’s tiny coffin to his plot. It was December, the grass was frozen underfoot, I couldn’t help but think how cold he was going to be. Time passed slowly after that, people told me it would get easier – I didn’t believe them. How could you possibly get through something like this? Well the thing is, you do – and I did.

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290 days later, on 3rd September 2013, in the same hospital, in the same maternity ward, Hamish Dylan Hicks was born.

Pregnancy hadn’t been a fun experience, I was terrified something was going to go wrong. I had a scan every two weeks to make sure everything was okay, sitting waiting for my appointment was always a stressful time, but everything was going smoothly. I was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks + 5 days. I was told that I would be stay in hospital until I was 37 weeks, then I would be induced. But at 35 weeks + 2 days, the morning after I’d had my last steroid injection, there was concerns about Hamish’s heartbeat on my CTG scan, he had to come out straight away. Nick wasn’t at the hospital, we were having carpet fitted in our hallway that morning, I rang him 5 times before he answered the phone. I was carted in to theatre and told that we couldn’t wait for Nick to arrive, I got my epidural and lay down on the table. Just as I was numb enough to be sliced open, Nick careered through the door with his scrubs half on. Hamish arrived with a shrill scream a couple of minutes later, I hadn’t realised they’d even started the procedure, Nick and I were just having a chat. I got to hold Hamish for about 30 seconds before he started having difficulty breathing. I didn’t see him again for 3 days. He had a few health complications that couldn’t be taken care of at our hospital, so he was taken to an Intensive Care Neonatal Unit at a hospital 40 miles away, Nick went with him but I had to wait until a bed was free to transfer me to. This was a stressful time, more so for Nick as I was off my face on pain medication, but I knew he was going to be okay, I didn’t got a second thing anything bad would happen to him. It’s strange to think about how laid back I was that Hamish got taken away, I would put up one hell of a fight if someone tried to do that now – I’m going to blame it on the morphine.

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After receiving some amazing care, Hamish left hospital a week (almost to the minute) after he was born, and he has been a healthy, happy boy ever since.

I don’t really know how to put in to words what it’s like to give birth to a stillborn, it takes you to a dark place, it feels like you will never be happy again. But I am happy again, I am happier than I have ever been, I feel so lucky that after going through such a traumatic experience, I ended up with such an amazing baby boy. We don’t talk about Dylan very often, but I think about him a lot. Sometimes I feel guilty that we are having fun without him, or sad that he didn’t have the same luck as Hamish. It’s a difficult thing to think about – if Dylan had survived, Hamish wouldn’t be here. That causes such a mix of emotions inside me that I couldn’t begin to explain it out loud – as I don’t understand it myself.

One of the gravestones near Dylan’s reads ‘A moment in our arms, a lifetime in our hearts’ – pretty cheesy, but very true.

You can find out more about us through my Instagram; http://instagram.com/lyndsay_buchanan

If anyone has/is struggling with the aftermath of stillbirth, or just wants a chat, my ears are open. Alternatively, I know that Sands (https://www.uk-sands.org/) are excellent.

‘Mummy, Where Do Babies Come From?’

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‘How do bees make babies Mummy?’

Picture the scene. It’s Friday, I’ve just got home from work and my 7 year old daughter is telling me about a boy she knows who’s Mummy has 9 children and is pregnant again. I am shocked. Not by the number of children this woman has but my daughter’s comment. ‘It’s not her fault Mummy she has so many babies it’s not like she decides to have another one every year they just keep growing inside her’.

What I found so tricky about this conversation is that maybe I should have left it at that and changed the subject, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t let my intelligent 7 year old think that’s how women get pregnant. She knows a lot about pregnancy and birth, being the daughter of a midwife and often hears me giving early labour advice on the phone or speaking to my colleagues ‘She’s how many centimetres dilated? Ok tell her to start filling the pool I’ll be there in half an hour’.

So I poured myself a glass of wine for Dutch courage and told her how a woman gets pregnant. I explained why men have willies that go hard, why fannies aren’t actually where we we wee from (diagrams helped with this bit) and I think she was pretty amazed. She liked the fact that she came from the mixing of an egg and sperm and was impressed at how clever the creation of life is. All was going well, I was giving myself a pat on the back for my diagrams and explanations. Brownie points for me. My motto is always be honest with my children and answer anything they ask me honestly.

Later that evening when I was tucking her into bed she brought up the subject again.

‘Mummy, you know that thing adults do to make a baby?’

‘Sex you mean Anya, remember it’s called sex’ I replied

‘Yeah sex, well have you and Daddy just done it twice you know to make me and Marnie?’

‘Of course sweetie, just those two times.’

Has anyone else had this conversation with their children yet? And at what age did you or them bring up the conversation?

Birth Story Of The Week – Helen and Matilda

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Hello! I’m Helen, mother to two fabulous and very loud children – Matilda, aged five, and Hugo, three. I am one-half of the comedy duo Scummy Mummies. We produce a number one podcast and comedy show taking a funny, honest look at the scummier side of parenting.

But my entrance into motherhood was quite the opposite – in fact my first labour was your full-on, all-natural, candle-burning, classical music-playing, yoga-chanting-in-the-lounge type of home birth. It was so calm, so lovely, and not very scummy at all. How my life has changed since then…

It all began when my waters broke at 9.45pm. I remember this very clearly as I was watching a show about John Prescott and laughed so hard that I thought I had wet my pants. There was a big whoosh of water and it just kept dribbling everywhere. I still think it’s hilarious that it was John Prescott who sent me into Labour…

My husband’s reaction was to run around in circles while looking panic-stricken. Obviously this was very helpful for me. I do recommend other birthing partners do the same. The contractions started at 11.30pm. At first they were about half an hour apart, but then they sped up fairly quickly. I tried to breathe through them and keep positive through the pain. Despite six months of yoga and breathing training, that first proper contraction was a huge shock, but I was determined to stay focused.

I was doing lots of Omming, Owwing and Oooohing – the neighbours must have been thrilled! I know my husband was. It might sound ridiculous, but it worked like magic and I felt really able to manage the pain. I rang the hospital and at about 3am a midwife came to the house. I had dilated to nearly 2cm and was getting strong contractions every 10 minutes. The midwife told me to take a Panadol and lie down, adding that she would come back later. I had been hoping for some lovely drugs and a massage, but apparently I was coping so well I didn’t need them – bummer! So my husband and I were left to do our 10 minute moaning sessions by ourselves.

But the midwife did give me an amazing piece of very simple advice: “Always lower your shoulders when the contractions come, and slow down your breathing.” Funnily enough, this got me through! I had a lovely bath (cue the candles and classical music) which helped me to relax and get into the rhythm of the contractions. Will, my husband, made himself useful by reminding me to only do “out breaths” and stay calm. He massaged my back and hands as I lay on my side in the bath and concentrated on my breathing. When I stopped focusing I started thinking about the pain too much, which made my breath get short and then I would throw up. That bit wasn’t so great!

At one point, which I now think was transition, I screamed, “I want to go to hospital and have an epidural” – followed by lots of swearwords I now forget. But Will kept me positive and helped me to keep breathing and relaxing.

By around 7am, I knew things were really happening so we rang the hospital again. By this time I was sitting in the lounge on a fit ball while Will set up the pool. I tried using the Tens machine but this seemed to make the contractions worse, so I decided it wasn’t right for me (i.e. I through it across the room in a rage.)

I should also mention that this was when my husband turned to me and said, “I’m really tired, you know – I did a full day’s work yesterday.” This was not his best moment and let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his predicament.

The midwife arrived at 8am, by which time I had dilated to 7cm. I was doing my contractions over the ball, swaying a lot, doing my “golden thread breath” and making the “ssshhhhh” sound. About half an hour later I got into the lovely warm pool and started using more sounds to get through the pain – lots of Ooooos, Ohhhhhs and Aaaaawwws. Again, this sounds funny now I think about it, but it was a really good way of communicating my pain levels to the midwife. Will said it was like listening to a car being tuned! (He watches a lot of Top Gear.)

My midwife, Claire, who had been visiting us at home in the run-up to the birth, had just started her shift and we got a call to say she could come straight away to deliver my baby. I nearly cried. It was so lovely to have the midwife I adored and trusted with me.

Claire arrived just as the second stage really kicked-off. We had more candles, more classical music and everyone spoke very softly and calmly. The pushing part was intense, but I got through it with all those sounds while holding tightly to Will’s hands. I ended up on all fours which was great, as I could look at him and feel supported by the water. (It was also good as there were a couple of incidents in the pool that required a sieve and I was pleased not to see that – I did regret eating lamb shanks the night before.)

When Matilda’s head crowned, the midwife told me to put my hands down and catch her. With one big push, a twist and a turn, I pulled her out of the water and held her in my arms. She came out screaming and was big, purple and amazing. She yelled for about 15 minutes, so she was definitely alive and well! We decided to name her Matilda Claire – this means “strong and mighty” as she was then and remains today! She also shares her middle name with my sister and, of course, my midwife.

We left the cord attached while I sat in the pool for an hour. It was so calm and relaxing. Matilda and I shared some lovely skin to skin contact as she kicked about in the water. The midwives gave me a huge spoonful of honey and made themselves a cuppa.

Then it was time for stage three – Will cut the cord, I hopped out of the pool and the midwives popped a carrier bag on the floor. The placenta flopped out with one big push! I have never felt so glamorous in my life. The midwife checked my downstairs for war wounds and to my relief, no stitches were required! What a vagina!

And what a baby! Matilda was born on her due date, Tuesday 28 October, at 11.45am. She weighed 8lbs 3oz and was gorgeous.

The midwives left around 2pm. Will, Matilda and I hung out on the coach staring at each other for a few hours. Then my mum and dad arrived to make us cheese on toast. Job done!

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My daughter is nearly six now and I have since had a second hippy-dippy, drug-free, moan-filled water birth. It was just as wonderful and I highly recommend it! I feel extremely lucky to have had a supportive husband and brilliant midwives helping to make both my births truly beautiful experiences.

Anyway, that’s enough lovely gushing. I must get back to writing about feeding my kids Haribo and fish fingers for dinner.

The Scummy Mummies Podcast is available for free via iTunes or ScummyMummies.com. Check out episode 14, ‘Midwife Crisis’, featuring the fabulous Clemmie Hooper! The Scummy Mummies stage show is performed monthly at The Hob in Forest Hill – visit their website for details. Twitter: @scummymummies

Birth Story Of The Week – Alice and Jonty

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I had an induced labour: I have an autoimmune disease and had had a previous operation on my diaphragm so late pregnancy was very painful for me. This, coupled with an apparently giant baby (off the charts at 35 weeks) meant that my consultant was keen to induce if I went overdue. Which I did. The pain actually lessened a lot in the last few days before the induction, as the baby dropped down, and I toyed with the idea of cancelling the induction but I was too impatient to meet our baby, and fed up of being pregnant!

I went in for the induction at 6am on the Monday morning. I had a pessary inserted at 8 and was encouraged to walk about. A few flights of stairs later and by 2pm I was experiencing bad period pains. By 4 they had turned into contractions. I carried on walking about and strapped on my tens machine. By 9 I was getting three in ten and I finally got the midwife to agree to examine me (after she’d hooked me up to the monitor to check I actually was contracting – I was!). I was only 2cm dilated so my husband Tom was sent home and told to expect a call in the night.

The contractions got worse and worse so I was examined again in the early hours of the morning but hadn’t progressed. They took the pessary out and I had some pethidine so I could sleep. A couple of hours later I was pacing the corridors again. I really hated labouring on my own, I wished I could have been at home, especially as I was on the main ward, with women whose inductions hadn’t worked or ones who needed their babies monitoring. I felt bad that my labour was progressing well and din’t want to cry out. The hours seems to drag by, I bounced on my ball, used my tens and tried to listen to music – Bonobo worked best for me.

By the morning, I was 4cm but there was no room on labour ward. By this point I was getting worked up. I had a bath, but that meant I had to take the tens off, and I couldn’t get it back up to the level I’d had, so went without. We finally went to labour ward about midday, where I leapt on the gas and air. I had the drip put up and my waters broke. I had an epidural, which was lovely. Until I began to be able to feel one leg. At first I thought this was hilarious but it quickly became that I could feel pain in one leg, then half of contractions, then all my contractions. When they checked my cervix the epidural fell out. I was fully dilated and ready to push. The pain was so intense, I’d gone from contractions at 5cm to fully dilated contractions with no pain in between, and the jump felt massive.

They got another epidural in but I was already pushing by then. The midwife kept putting her finger in up to one knuckle and saying that’s where the head was – but the distance didn’t change and I couldn’t push any more. I felt suddenly very calm as I told them I couldn’t push this baby out. They said he was too far down for a c-section but the doctor would come. I knew I needed help, he’d turned at the last minute and so was back to back and stuck.

The doctor arrived and got out the forceps. By this point the epidural had sunk in again (phew!) so I had one episiotomy, and then another. But Jonty was born in a big tumble, like a lamb on Countryfile and I tore badly. It was ten to 1 on the Wednesday morning. I don’t remember seeing him, although apparently they did put him on me. I can just remember the doctors assessing how much of my anal sphincter was damaged and thinking ‘this really has gone wrong now’. I was losing a lot of blood so they rushed me off the theatre, leaving Tom to have skin to skin with Jonty.

I went into shock apparently so don’t remember much of what happened next but I had a bad third degree tear which they stitched up. After about an hour I was wheeled out, Tom and little Jonty met us in the corridor and I had my first cuddle. He was visibly starving and I felt so dreadful that I hadn’t been able to feed him.

That remains the worst part of it all.

But anyway, he fed well that night and has continued to do so. My recovery was slow and I spent another couple of days in hospital as i kept fainting and had a crazy high pulse rate. The first few months were very painful, and I’ve been left without much pelvic floor strength but I’m having physio. I’ll have a C section next time and it feels a bit sad that I’ll never get the birth I’d hoped for, but having a lovely baby is so worth it. I wish it had gone differently and massively regret being induced but I wasn’t to know. I’m just so lucky that it didn’t affect how I bonded with Jonty, he fed well from the beginning and is now a massive 22lb at 6 months. He’s a superstar and I love being his mama.

Stand And Deliver!

“In an ‘Active Birth’ the mother herself is in control of her body. She moves and changes position freely – she is the birth giver. Whereas in an actively managed birth, all the power is taken from her, her body is controlled and she is a passive patient.” (Janet Balaskas).

A month or two ago we had a student midwife from Ireland observing our team as part of her elective placement. She joined me at a hospital birth for one of my women who was having an induction. As the induction was considered high risk, continuous monitoring was recommended for my woman. We were in a delivery room that looked similar to this.

To optimise maximum space and allow my woman to move around and stay active I did the following.

  • I pushed the bed length ways against the wall and raised it up high
  • I used birth mats and a large bean bag on the floor to create a nest on the floor
  • I turned the lights off and shut the blind and used a small lamp for low level lighting
  • I moved the CTG machine into the corner of the room and set up the telemetry setting so she could mobilise more freely
  • Once I had checked the resustaire I moved it out of the way and covered it in a blanket

During the day whilst caring for my woman in labour my student whispered in my ear that she’d never seen a woman labour so actively. She was use to seeing women on the bed, or lying on their side on the bed. Even when there no epidural on board. She said in the hospital where she trained there where birthing balls and mats but were often kept in the store room and never openly offered to women. She also said that because most the women she had seen were told they had  to get onto the bed, they then often asked for an epidural as it was too painful labouring lying down.

This sort of ‘changing room’ technique I’ve devised is not unusual to my midwifery practice. Active birth was first introduced to me as a first year student midwife 10 years ago. It became something I was so passionate about I even wrote my final year dissertation on the subject ‘Alternative Positions of the Mother in the Second Stage Of Labour’. There have been hundreds of studies written about why staying up right and moving around in labour is more beneficial for the woman. So just to clarify some on the benefits

Benefits of active birth:

  • Shorter, more efficient labour
  • Help the labouring mum to cope with the intensity of contractions
  • Less risk of foetal distress as there is better blood flow to the placenta
  • Working with gravity rather than against it
  • Partners can help to give physical support, helping them to get involved
  • Minimal trauma for mum and baby

And just so you know….. I had an induction with my second baby which meant a lot more monitoring but I still insisted on staying upright, asking for the bed to be raised, for a birthing ball and mats. It can be done, here’s photographic proof! (excuse the bad bra shots)

I often hear women telling me their births stories, and a common theme comes through ‘I had to get on the bed to have monitoring’ or ‘The midwife/doctor need to listen to the baby’s heartbeat so I got on the bed’. There is no rule written in any guideline/hospital policy that says any woman has to be on the bed for monitoring. If it is advised that it is safer to monitor your baby’s heart beat during labour with a CTG machine then ask to stand, lean over the bed, sit on a ball because this is your labour and you know the benefits of staying upright.  Get your birth partner to ask for the bed to moved, for a birthing ball (or take your own in) or for birthing mats to be put down on the floor. Any unnecessary equipment can be moved out of the way to make space for you to be active.

So if you’re pregnant and getting near to your due date, write your birth plan and make sure your birth partner knows all about active birth. There are some great examples of women having active births on labour wards all over the UK. Us midwives know it works and is more beneficial for labour. But maybe sometimes we just need reminding to get off the bed.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Amy and Harry

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Here is my birth story. I had a textbook pregnancy; didn’t suffer with morning sickness, felt great most of the time and loved being pregnant. So I suppose I was due a not so textbook labour. I wrote more over on my blog Baby Breeze.

Thursday 10 July 2014.
11:45pm
I woke up with what I thought was really bad trapped wind! I thought it was one of the signs my body was getting ready for labour to start in a few day’s time.

Friday 11 July 2014.
12:15am
Paul arrived home from work to find me in the bathroom, asking him to help me! I wasn’t sure if it was wind or labour, either way it hurt and not much was happening!

12:15 – 2:25am
Paul went to bed, if it was labour we assumed it would be a while so he’d better get some sleep after an 8 hour shift. I kept going from sitting on the loo, to trying to go back to bed, to walking around the bedroom, to leaning over the bed or bathroom sink! I didn’t know what to do with myself.
In a few of my visits to the loo I had a bowl movement, again I just assumed it was one of the signs my body was getting ready for labour and why I was in so much pain.

2:25am
Finally something happened, I felt/heard a pop then there was a big gush of water, like a water balloon popping (luckily I was on the loo, again!). My waters had broken. This WAS labour.

2:30am
I started timing, what I now knew, were contractions. Paul was telling me to call the birth centre and let them know my waters had broken. With my natal hypnotherapy I didn’t want to go too early. But I was uncomfortable and in pain.

The contractions were about 1 and half minutes apart, lasting 20-30 seconds. After timing for about 5 mins I called the birth centre. The midwife guided me through, deep breathing. I needed to go in to be checked over as my waters had broken.

3:00am
We grabbed the bags, in which I’d put the last minute bits on Thursday. Maybe I knew something was happening earlier in the day. I got dressed and off we went.

3:30am
We arrived at the birth centre. The midwife met us and took us into a birth room to check me over. My blood pressure was good, then the examination. That was easier said than done. Between contractions I somehow managed to lay on the couch; but still not long enough for a proper examination. I moved to a position leaning over the birth pool where I felt I needed to be sick; so yet another trip to the bathroom!

4:00am
I started using the gas and air so the midwife can do a proper examination. The baby was breech. An ambulance was called to take me to hospital. At this point I was leaning over the emptying birth pool :( with Paul holding my hand and helping me through my contractions and giving me water. All I could think was I don’t want to go to hospital, I want the baby here, I don’t want to be in an ambulance, I don’t want to lay on a bed and I knew the baby was coming.

The midwife had a visual check (using a torch!). The midwife made the decision, I wouldn’t be going to hospital, I wouldn’t make it, the baby wanted to come and it would be more dangerous to have the baby in the ambulance than the birth centre. The midwives started to get prepared.

4:16am
Soon after came an overwhelming urge to push, the baby was on its way. The urge took over the feeling of pain and was primal. More midwives came in to help. The baby’s heartbeat needed to be checked…Nothing. A heart stopping moment for Paul and I. But then we heard it, baby was just in a position that made it hard to find, it was normal.

Time to start pushing. I did the initial pushing still in a standing position, not wanting to lay down, knowing it would make my pelvis smaller and pushing harder. Initially I was grunting through the contractions but was told by the midwife to use that energy for a bigger push. It was working, the baby was nearly here. For breech delivery laying down is the best position to be in. This was all explained to me; even though I didn’t want to be laying down I knew it was best for me and the baby. So I moved to the couch with my bum on the edge ready for delivery.

A few pushes later and the bottom was out, a couple more then the legs and torso. I was nearly there, ready to meet our baby, I was still using the gas and air and had Paul holding my hand encouraging me the whole time. The contractions subsided a little with the head still not delivered so I had to have a small episiotomy. The baby was here. But no crying, Paul went to the midwives to check all was ok…Then there was the cry.

4:56am Harry was born.

It wasn’t quite the labour and delivery I was expecting, no time to use natal hypnotherapy, but I have no doubt that helped me stay calm, focused and take the fact Harry was breech in my stride. I listened to my body. Undiagnosed breeches are rare, it’s even rarer to have a midwife delivery, but as a team we did it and I wouldn’t change it. After 5 hours of labour our beautiful baby boy was here. Now to start the next chapter.

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What Did You Name Yours?

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Today Net Mums released the official top baby names from the last 12 months. The list doesn’t surprise me at all, after all I’m probably working in the one profession where I am at the forefront of hearing these names within minutes, often seconds of delivering a baby. During my career I have heard it all when it comes to naming your baby. I’m not going to name and shame but there have been some interesting moments in the delivery room when the new parents have revealed their baby daughter’s name. ‘So how are you spelling that?’ is often my polite answer. You get the idea.

Now I’m no expert at naming babies, I’ve had 2 girls of my own and I do think girls names are much easier than boys names. I hate being put on the spot and I have been asked by new parents to pick between two names for their child. I have also had a baby girl named after me which was a lovely surprise.

So here is my top tips for naming your child

  • ALWAYS consider your child. You might like a certain name because it’s supercool or unique, but remember that it is not you who needs to go through life with this name. Do you really want your child having to explain herself to every single person who needs to write her name? Trust me my name has 10 letters in it. Not much space on the page to fill them all in ,hence why I shortened it.
  • Pregnancy hormones can play havoc with your sense of humour and emotions. Naming your child after the character you saw on TV may not be such a great idea ten years down the line. I once met two sisters called Cagney and Lacey.
  • Consider all possible nicknames and names that rhyme. Kids will always find a way to tease other kids especially when names are involved. The day one boy at school realised that Clemmie rhymed with Flemmy was the day I started calling myself Sarah.
  • Research the meaning of the names you like. You don’t want to realise after you’ve named your baby Claudia, that it actually means lame.
  • Say it out loud. Like lots of times. Say it with your surname, call it across the park (to see if any dogs come running). We never realised how similar my daughters name Marnie sound like Mummy. It still gets confusing.
  • And write it down. Lots of times just like you did when you wrote down your boyfriends name age 16 all over your homework diary. You’ll be surprised how instantly you love it or hate it.
  • Think about the initials especially if you’re using a middle name. I knew someone with the initials BJ. His surname was Madick. Enough said
  • Negotiate with your partner. I worked really hard on my second daughters middle name Violet. I figured as I was pushing our baby out of me I could pretty much call her what I liked. Amazingly it worked.
  • Be careful who you tell. When you’re pregnant people LOVE to ask (guilty) ‘Have you thought of any names?’ And if you choose to reveal a few be prepared for odd looking faces or negative comments. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I told a certain member of the family a girls name I had fallen in love with. The member of the family very quickly made her feelings known about that name. I haven’t quite forgiven her.
  • Never ask your teacher friends their opinion. I have heard countless times ‘Jack is always a naughty boy name’. Also feel sorry for your friends if they’re both teachers. Naming their child must be an impossible task.
  • You don’t have to love your child’s name. As odd as it sounds your child grows into their name and you can’t imagine them being called anything else. Both our girls are often called by their nicknames or their full names.
  • And lastly, once you revealed your child’s name, stick to it. I once knew a couple who changed their sons name when he was 5 months old. It was confusing especially for the baby’s 3 year old brother.

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Maria and Emyrs

Baby Emrys less than a day old Chris and Sonny in their new playpen aka the birthpool Emrys and me 9 months later

“It never even occurred to me that I could give birth to my baby at home until I met my friend Cara when we were pregnant with our first babies. Up until then I was conditioned, as I think many Western women are, to believe that babies were born in hospital. Not so for Cara. She was determined to have her little one at home, as hospitals were a place she feared deeply for various personal reasons. I was impressed by her bravery and positive mindset. And she did it! Her bright and curious daughter entered the world in a pool in her parents’ front room, with Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ trumpeting her arrival. It was perfect.

As for me, I had to have my first baby in hospital. I was scared and had no idea what to expect. I wanted doctors, I wanted beeping machines, and I wanted drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

My birth story of my first child Sonny, is beautiful because he was born. The midwives looked after me well and my baby boy was delivered safely. All was well. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been even more special, even more beautiful, perhaps even serene? So when I saw that second stripe appear on the pregnancy test eighteen months ago, I knew that I was going to go for it the second time around. I was going to have a home birth.

This was not a decision I made lightly. My husband and I discussed it at length, and I read every book I could get my hands on, keen to hear the bad stories as well as the good. My midwife was extremely supportive; here in our small seaside town of Bournemouth in the UK, the Maternity Unit is midwife led. They are pro natural birth and encourage particularly second time mothers to consider home births. As I was low risk I was good to go.

We prepared the house for the big day, hired a birthing pool, and even visited a specialist shop for the needs of the elderly to purchase industrial-style bedsheets in case I wanted to have my baby in our bed. We were fully prepared with every eventuality covered. I knew that home births did not always work out, that sometimes women had to be taken to hospital to have their baby. I kept myself informed of all possible outcomes, but tried to remain positive, and believe that I could have the birth I dreamed of.

The day I went into labour, my step-mother came to pick up Sonny. It was half past five on the bright and unseasonably warm October evening. This was it! We said goodbye and I remember thinking, in a few hours-by midnight maybe-our baby would be here, in this house. I would be bathed and tucked up in our bed, nursing my newborn and drinking sweet tea. In our home. I would be committing every little detail of the last hours to memory. My special, unique and perfect birth.

We called the midwife and she came to check me. At about half past seven I was just 2 centimetres dilated. She told me to rest, have a bath and call her when the contractions were closer together, and/or my waters had broken. By midnight nothing had really changed. We went to bed and tried, in vain, to sleep.

Things did not start to pick up until 9 o’clock the next morning. We called the midwife again. This time Janine came and checked me. I was seven centimetres! She got me sorted with some gas and air, and called her colleague Linda. I knew that calling the second midwife meant that the baby was coming. My husband Chris started to fill up the pool, and set the baby’s clothes and towels to warm on the radiator. I got into the pool, and I remember looking at the tiny white babygro, hat and vest, certain that in just a few hours our baby would be here in our home.  As Chris played me my favourite records, I tried to focus my mind on the pain, telling myself that the baby was coming soon and this would be over. But my waters still had not broken.The early autumn sun beat through the window, a beautiful day to bring a new life into the world. My all-time favourite record was played-‘Bob Dylan’s Gospel’-a gift my dad had given my mum in the late ‘60s, before they were married. I remember feeling overwhelmed-I was emotional, I missed my mum, and I was exhausted.

Janine and Linda decided it was time to break my waters and I agreed with the plan. It was gone midday, and my contractions were starting to slow down. After a few painful tries my waters finally broke. Linda left the room and Janine held my hand and looked into my face as she told me quite gently but firmly, that there was meconium in my waters, and that Linda was calling the ambulance. There was a chance that my baby was in distress. We had to go to hospital. It was no longer safe for this birth to happen in our home. My contractions sped up and became more intense. The midwives let me push, making it very clear that myself and the baby would still have to go to the hospital-but he was not ready to come out yet.

The paramedics arrived and I was taken on a stretcher down our garden path and into the ambulance parked in our road. I was so frightened and distressed-how the hell was I going to get to hospital? How the hell was I going to get through the next 20 minutes in the back of an ambulance, which let’s face it, is not much more than a transit van.

The journey was excruciatingly painful. I clung to the gas and air as Janine rubbed my back. I tried to picture the journey to the hospital, feeling every turn around every roundabout, every speed bump. It was the longest journey of my life.

We finally arrived and were taken straight to the delivery room. Janine had to hand me over to another midwife.

“You’re leaving? You can’t stay?” (She did tell me this before we got in the ambulance, but I suppose I was still in denial) More devastation, more tears. Janine assured me that my new midwife, another Chris, was the best. I was in safe hands. Still, I had built up a strong bond with this woman, and I wasn’t ready for her to leave. (In fact, Janine was such a special midwife, she called me a few days later to ask if she could come and visit the baby and me, and talk through what had happened. I was so happy to see her again)

Midwife Chris was the opposite of Janine; she was big, brash and most definitely the boss. She was exactly what I needed. I did everything she said and concentrated as hard as I could. I delivered my baby boy at 4:30pm on the 10th October, 2013 in hospital. He arrived screaming and red-faced, his little fists clenched and trembling, as if in a terrible rage at leaving the warmth and comforting dark of my belly. He was perfect. He was beautiful. Despite the meconium, baby Emrys was healthy, and I was unscathed.

We were left alone; my husband, me and our newest member of the clan. We were in a hospital room, with stiff white sheets and strip lighting. There were no baby clothes warming on the radiator, there was no Bob Dylan on the record player, there was no promise of the comfort of our bed after a shower in our own bathroom. But that was OK. My baby was here, and he was safe. I had got through a long labour and had done most of it at home.

I do not regret trying for a homebirth, and it hasn’t necessarily put me off trying again if we were to have a third child (although my husband would have something to say about it). My home birth did not go as planned, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I look back on the experience fondly and with no regrets. And now nine months later, when I look at my baby boy I can’t help but feel that his birth is such a small part of what will be his story.”

Blog: ohidoliketobe

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Last weekend has been spent celebrating my gorgeous friend’s wedding with all my old school pals in the New Forest. She is the second one of us to tie the knot (after me) and looked just beautiful. The day was perfect in every way and as I type this I think the newly weds have already landed in Dubai for their ‘mini moon’, yup that’s a thing now – 1 honey moon just isn’t enough! As the weekend events has started coming back to me, it got me thinking about marriage, love, sex, babies and what the future means for newly married couples.

You see sex is such a funny old thing isn’t it. We’re still embarrassed about talking about it openly, so much so that when I talk to women postnatally about contraception I don’t know who is blushing more, me or the woman? Often the woman is looking at me like I’m mad and probably thinking ‘I have a new born baby, stitches that still haven’t healed and my breasts are so sore and swollen I feel like a Jersey cow but yes I can’t wait to have sex with my husband’. Am I right?

And it’s pretty silly really, as sex is the reason why you’re pregnant in the first place. I mean if it wasn’t for sex I would be out of a job and the world would be a very strange place.

SO why are we still so prudish about chatting about sex especially after you’ve had a baby? Us girls pretty much tell each other everything about our births but once that baby has left your body no one wants to be the first at the postnatal coffee group to say ‘we tried to have sex last night but I was so dry my partner couldn’t get it in.’ Women want to be seen to be handling it all, a new baby, her postnatal figure, sleep routines, the transition into motherhood so there’s no way anyone would want to confess that they haven’t had sex since their baby was born 8 months ago.

So when is the right time to have sex and what does it really feel like?

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The answer is; when you feel ready. That may be when your baby is 5 weeks old or when it’s 5 months old. Only you know your body and how you feel so don’t feel pressured by others or your partner for that matter. By the time you may be thinking about having sex you might have a vague idea when your baby might be asleep for more than 10 minutes preferably in the cot on not in the sling (awkward). Always pick a time when your baby has had a good feed especially if you’re breastfeeding (no one wants a leaky boob whilst their partner is on top) and has a clean nappy. Nothing like killing the moment to change an up-the-back-leaked-all-over-the-clean-babygrow-type-poo.

Unless you’re Tamara Ecclestone your post baby body isn’t going to look how it use to. I remember being horrified when looking down at my stomach whilst in a certain position during sex with my partner after my first baby thinking ‘will it always hang down like that???’  Obviously with a bit of time and work it did eventually look marginally more acceptable but it still wobbles and rolls in 3 places and I’d opt for the ‘spoons’ position rather than on top any day.

sex

For me and the majority of women out there, the first you have postnatal sex is a bit like ,well, the first time you ever had sex – awkward, embarrassing, nerve racking and uncomfortable. You hope it will be over fairly quickly (it often is) and you don’t really want to talk about it ever again.

As one of my friends recently shared with me after her first time,”I think sex after birth is an oxymoron in itself… It’s terrifyingly wonderful. I was petrified of wiping myself after having a wee, let alone having a willy go there!! However, it’s so lovely when you realise it all feels just as amazing and helps to reunite you as a couple.”

Try not to ask your partner if it feels wider, bigger, looser, softer or different during sex. It will put him off and kill the mood. You may feel different but you partner may not even notice. He will just be pleased to be able to have some intimacy with you after such a long break.

“The worst thing was the nerves. I was really tense – Would it hurt? Would he feel my stitches? What if I felt different or it wasn’t enjoyable for either of us? It was like it was my first time all over again! It wasn’t actually that bad or that uncomfortable, I think the fact that I was so tense was the biggest cause of discomfort. After lots of reassurance from my boyfriend and a few more go’s I’ve got my confidence back, have relaxed and am enjoying it much more again” another friend adds.

If you’ve had a c-section your vagina and perineum should feel and look the same as before you were pregnant (lucky you) but you may still feel sore around your scar and your stomach muscles can still feel pretty wounded. A position like ‘spoons’ is probably sensible as it doesn’t put any strain on your tummy.

If you’ve had a vaginal birth obviously make sure your tear is completely healed before embarking on a passionate night in the bedroom. (Usually at your 6 week postnatal check up with your GP you have the opportunity to raise any issues you may have about your perineum and vagina). You may want to even have a look with a mirror before hand and see how things are looking. Don’t be freaked out by this idea, you will be surprised how well the vaginal and perineal tissues heal. I had a small tear with no stitches and honestly I couldn’t see where the tear even was, let alone feel it.  And I have seen lots of women’s vaginas after they’ve had an episiotomy or a 2nd degree tear and again the tissues have healed really well. Getting to know what down there looks like is important for understanding how our bodies work and how well we heal after having babies. Go mother nature!

“I had trouble not only getting in the mood but also with lubricating naturally. My baby was breach and then ended up having to be an emergency c-section after sort of getting whipped out. With body confidence issues aside, I also found various angles of penetration extremely uncomfortable (probably due to the sweeps I had during labour and the fact that I almost managed to give birth naturally) After a few months, I finally got the confidence to do so and after a good long while I finally found a position that was completely comfortable with (on my side, him behind) this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my hideous tummy, but also the angle worked perfectly. It took over a year for things to return to normal but we took it very very slowly and eventually things returned to normal.”

It’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth which is linked to lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding this may be even lower so using a lubrication such as a KY jelly may help ease this and make sex and oral sex with your partner more enjoyable.

So my top tips to round this awkward over sharing blog post off is:

  • Only have sex when YOU feel ready
  • Choose a time when the baby is fed, clean and asleep
  • If it hurts or feels uncomfortable it’s ok to stop and try again at another time
  • Choose positions which make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy it
  • If wearing a chemise, bra, corset, pair of Spanx in bed makes you feel more confident then go for it!
  • ALWAYS use contraception – even if you are breastfeeding
  • And remember the more pelvic floor exercises you do, the tighter your muscles will be and the less likely you are to wet yourself on a trampoline!

Birth Story Of The Week – Maria, Mickey and Georgie

My first pregnancy was not exactly what I had hoped for – hyperemesis, followed by whooping cough, followed by hip pain, in between two house moves! Despite all this, my husband Michael and I were ecstatic and could not wait for our 1st baby to be born. We took photos of the bump every few weeks, read weekly about its development in the pregnancy book and were delighted to see the little creature on the ultrasound scans.

We went to the NHS antenatal classes and our plan was a hospital water birth with gas and air. I am an A&E doctor and Michael is a nurse, so the hospital is not a scary place! My mum would come over from Greece to help us with the last house move (at 36 weeks!), the birth and the new baby.

The baby was due on the 11th of June and 4 days after that I had what I thought was contractions.  I remember watching the football on TV (Euro 2012) and thinking “this is not bad, I have had period pains worse than this”. I was however quite frustrated that by the next morning they had gone and nothing was happening.  Two days later, on the Sunday, just as I had finished the chicken roast my husband had cooked for us, I felt a sensation I had never felt before and said to Michael and mum: “oh, this does hurt…I think it is starting”. I spent a few hours in the bath with mum timing the contractions while Michael was getting everything ready. We ended up going to hospital, which is a half an hour drive away, 4-5 hours later, at around 11pm, as the contractions grew closer and became quite strong.

When I arrived, I kept dropping down on all fours on the way to the ward, and when the midwife saw me she was positive I would have a quick labour. Unfortunately, I was only 3cm dilated, so went on to get in the bathtub in my room (the pools were both being occupied), still aiming for the “gas and air water birth” I had planned for. I was very happy that my mum had been allowed to stay with me during labour, as well as my husband. They were both very good and supportive in the many hours that followed, as I was moaning in the bath…Eventually, I gave in. I needed more pain killers. I came out of the water and had an injection of Pethidine. After that, it is all a bit vague. I remember pain, pushing and I remember the music list that Michael had made playing in the background (though I only remember 2 songs of the 7+ hours of music that was playing!). At a point Michael was sent out to get a snack as he had not eaten for hours. My mum and Michael were talking to me, though I cannot remember much of what they were saying. I thought I was sleeping a lot, but they later said to me that I was only asleep a few seconds at a time between contractions. I was dreamy and happy despite the pain.

When the midwives changed shifts in the morning I was still pushing but not getting anywhere. They broke my waters in an attempt to help, but still baby would not come. They could touch the head and they were suspicious that the baby had extended the neck instead of flexing it. After 2 more internal examinations that felt worse than the contractions it was decided that baby’s neck was indeed extended and therefore he or she was stuck. In the meantime, I was attached to the monitoring belts,  the baby’s heart was slowing to almost zero with every push and I was losing my contractions as I was so tired…suddenly my room filled with doctors and it was decided I would be taken to theatre for instrumental delivery or C-section. Everybody hustled around me, I was given various drugs, signed various forms and watched my poor mum, with her basic English and therefore basic understanding of what was happening, panicking inside. Then, they whizzed me off to the theatres at around 10.30am.

The spinal anaesthetic was the best thing ever and my pain was gone. I was not scared. I had spent a year of my training anaesthetising people and I was comfortable in the theatre environment. Michael was allowed in. They had 3 attempts at instrumental delivery and at 11.21am my beautiful baby boy was born via C-section, weighing 3.060 kilos (6lbs 12oz). We named him Michael Constantine as planned and we call him Mickey. Though he refused to take to the breast, much to my dismay and despite hours and hours of trying, he has grown into a beautiful boy. He just turned 2 on the 18th of June and he is absolutely lovely.

We had decided from the beginning that we would have our babies close together, but my 2nd positive test took us a bit by surprise. It was only a week after my little boy (then 8 months old) had come out of hospital after having meningitis, and only one month after starting to try to get pregnant. My second pregnancy was not different like everyone assured me.  It was simply worse. This time I even got admitted to hospital for IV rehydration. And the hip was a killer! I had to stop work a week earlier than planned as I could no longer really do my job properly.

The big question of this pregnancy was – elective C-section or an attempt at vaginal delivery? We pondered for weeks. I felt that I should attempt to have the 2nd baby naturally. After all, I was so close to delivering Mickey vaginally before, surely I could do it this time. On the other hand, the info given to me by my midwife said there was a 25% risk of another emergency section if I tried to give birth naturally. That was too high for me. My professional experience did not help either. I had seen how complicated emergency operations and anaesthetics could get and I did not want to end up with a general anaesthetic in the middle of the night. Though my personal experience with the emergency C-section for Mickey was excellent (I had very little pain post-operatively and it all went well from start to finish), I had a fear that it might not be as good this time. Thinking about the whole thing made me so stressed that I decided it was not worth it. I was not going to spend the rest of my pregnancy stressing about the potential of another emergency section. So, elective section it was. I had various appointments with my consultant and her team who discussed the pros and cons with me and accepted my decision. In fact, my consultant said that because I got so close with Mickey and was unable to deliver I was at an increased risk of needing a section again. So, I was relieved that I made that choice.

Georgia Eileen (Georgie) arrived 6 days before her due date, on the 7th of November 2013 at 11.08am weighing 3.27 kilos (7lbs 3oz). That morning, we took my suitcase, got into the car and drove to the hospital. I was a bit more stressed than when I went to hospital in labour. I think that was because there was not much adrenaline going around in my body and I had no contractions to concentrate on. We waited for our turn to go to theatre and then…there she was. She had a perfect fringe when they took her out of my belly, as if she had just been to the hairdresser. She took to the breast immediately at Recovery and is a happy, gorgeous little girl.

I guess what I am trying to put across is that I went into this pregnancy/birth world with a plan – a water birth with minimal drugs. I like a plan. I usually stick to my plans. But it did not happen. Both my births were very medical. But, at the end of the day that did not matter. They were still magical. Two beautiful babies made it into this world in good health and have been developing well since. Sometimes I think that if Mickey had been born in a time before C-sections he might not have made it out at all. I might not have made it. So, I am thankful for modern medicine.

Mickey 3 Mickey 4 mickey Mickey2